Thursday, May 15, 2014

DVC Celebrates a Legacy

By Guest Blogger, Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer. 

You don’t have to be an Anglophile to know that the Western choral tradition owes an enormous debt to Britain. From the Renaissance to today, works by British composers have become the mainstay of the world’s choral repertoire.  

The DelawareValley Chorale dipped into the vastness of this centuries-old tradition to close its 2013-14 season on Saturday at The Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew& Matthew in Wilmington with a concert titled “The English Choral Legacy.” The sound was so glorious and the program so well-chosen that one only hopes the group will revisit this literature in the not-too-distant future.

Two works by composer C. Hubert H. Parry bookended the concert. Hear my words, ye people, was composed for the Festival of the Salisbury Diocesan Choral Association and was first performed in the Salisbury Cathedral on May 10, 1894. This extended anthem was meant to be sung by a gathering of parish choirs so the choral parts are within the reach of most choirs. The more technically demanding music is reserved for the soloists and organ. Soprano Lauren Conrad Giza, baritone Bill Gross and organist David Hearn did not disappoint. The final section of the quarter-hour work featured the SsAM Choral Scholars, with the resulting contrast of choral sonorities suggestive of a choral “concerto.”

Blest pair of sirens, Parry’s rip-roaring setting of John Milton’s poem Ode to a Solemn Musick concluded the concert. The highlight of the piece is the “big tune” to the words "O may we soon again renew that song” which spreads from the sopranos to the whole choir, then turns into fugue on "To live with him," which again reverts back to a homophonic texture of the final bars. The performance was one magnificent arch of music, bringing the audience to its feet with calls for an encore.

The other major piece of the first half was Come ye, sons of art, Ode to the birthday of Queen Mary II in 1694, by Henry Purcell, arguably Britain’s greatest composer. Soprano Conrad Giza and baritone Gross were joined by countertenors Augustine Mercante and Daniel Moody, whose superb voices, diction and style were a delight.

The balance of the concert included four madrigals ably executed by the SsAM Choral Scholars. The Chorale returned after the intermission with three songs by Arthur S. Sullivan, perhaps better known for writing a few operettas with a partner named Gilbert. The 20th Century got its due with Jubilate Deo, one of Benjamin Britten’s best known and most often performed short choral works. Hearn provided a rhythmically spirited organ accompaniment to the chorale’s direct vocal phrases and the piece bubbled with the joyous mood of the words.


Monday, May 5, 2014

The Reedy Point Players Stay Gold with "The Outsiders"

It's not often that I venture south of Wilmington for theater. I go see the Chapel Street Players in Newark on occasion, and I've enjoyed productions at Middletown's Everett Theatre now and then, but one Delaware community theater I had yet to check out was the Reedy Point Players in Delaware City. When I heard they were doing "The Outsiders," based on the book by S.E. Hinton (one of my favorites in any medium), I decided it was time to make the short trip. Just under 30 minutes from Wilmington, RPP is tiny (never a bad thing in my book), utilizing the community center space in the Delaware City Library. "The Outsiders," directed by Erin Miller, centers on Ponyboy Curtis, a bookish 14 year old in 1960s Oklahoma who also happens to run with a gang of greasers -- the poor kids in town who are in a seemingly never-ending battle with a gang of "socs" (rich kids). For Ponyboy, the gang is really just the guys he knows from the neighborhood who look out for each other. He keeps out of trouble, not just because he's a good, honest kid, but also because trouble would mean he'd be removed from the custody of his older brother Darry, who had taken the responsibility of raising him and middle brother Sodapop after their parents' deaths. Unfortunately, trouble finds Ponyboy and his best friend Johnny, a broken boy with a surprisingly old soul. As Ponyboy, Middletown High sophomore Brandon Dawson conveys the character's juxtaposition as the exceptionally intelligent, kind of nerdy kid in the slicked-back hair and blue jeans that defined him as a hoodlum in his time. Any good Ponyboy needs a Johnny who is just as convincing, and Sean Wagner is spot on in what is probably the most challenging role in the play. It's crucial that the audience cares about Johnny, and he, without a doubt, pulled it off. Kevin Austra's Dallas, the bad-boy greaser who would do anything for his friends, hit the right notes, and Dan Davis captured the wisecracking Two-Bit perfectly. Matthew Furman as Darry towers over Dawson, making him an especially imposing figure, especially when he's angry -- but the love he has for his youngest brother came through. Derek Pinchot as Soda and Heather Mickles as Sandy round out the greasers. The socs are a less sympathetic gang, but Cherry Valance (Lauren Bailey), Marcia (Molly Kiefer) and Randy (Max O'Neill) show that they're not monsters, just kids who for the most part are tired of fighting too. They don't really grasp that their upper middle class struggles aren't equivalent to the struggles of the disadvantaged greasers, but Randy points out that the sadistic soc Bob (John Bolduc) was probably the way he was due to being overly spoiled by his parents. It's fair to say there are issues all around. "The Outsiders" combines coming-of-age with tragedy, a story of violence, consequences, heroism and hope that continues to move young readers (and watchers) -- and it translates remarkably well to the stage. RPP's take on it was worth the trip.

It Ain’t Yo’ Mama’s Shakespeare: CTC Straight Killin’ it with 'Bomb-itty'

By Guest Blogger, Amanda Curry
Amanda is the Director of Communications for the Delaware College of Art & Design in Wilmington.

“Pack it up, Pack it in/ Let me begin…”

Yo’ Mama jokes. Adidas track pants and sneaks. Rappin’ and beatboxin’… Shakespeare?! Walking in to CTC’s production of The Bomb-itty of Errors, you’re in for an atmosphere more reminiscent of a strip club/disco than a theater, complete with a DJ droppin’ beats throughout and four poles on stage (and yes, they are used for that purpose...hilariously misused, but you’ll see). This four-actor + DJ production is a fast-paced, high-energy, “add-raptation” of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors.  The show is campy, raunchy, fun and hilarious, but, you want to go in with some understanding of Comedy of Errors, otherwise you’ll get totally lost and miss a lot of the funny. And there is a lot of funny.

That said, check out a run(DMC)-down of the plot here. The gist is two sets of identical twins — one pair both named Antipholus and one pair both named Dromio — born to a legendary MC of his time and his wife.  They are forced to give the kids up for adoption and the twins are split — one Dromio and Antipholus grow up in Syracuse and the respective pair in Ephesus — each unaware of their counterpart until the end of the show. The plot gets more complicated as the show goes on, but that’s part of the fun.  As the confusion escalates, so too does the hilarity, as a variety of zany characters are introduced, all played by the same four actors.

The show is an interesting mix of Shakespearean rhyme and modern hip-hop references, set in present day NYC.  Admittedly, I was skeptical at first.  However, I was pretty much won over and thoroughly impressed with all four of the performers’ skills on the mic, as the entire show is rapped/sung.  Shakespeare alone is tough enough to spit out, but rapping Shakespeare?  Impossible.  And these guys really do tackle it like pros.  All four performers play multiple characters, signified by a simple wig/costume piece change. The stage itself — designed by Richard A. Kendrick — is pretty simplistic: the DJ in the middle and two screens on either side.  But the atmosphere is complemented well with occasional strobe lights and red gel cutouts that light up to signify three important locations: home, bar and church (lighting design by Vicki Neal).  Actors move in and out of the playing space to change behind screens, pretty much in view of the audience, so there’s quite a bit of meta-theatre happening. The staging and choreography is fun and funky complete with a whole lot of booty shakin'.  I especially loved the homage to N*Sync with a little “Bye, Bye, Bye” dance.  Mad props to Kerry Kristine McElrone and Lauren Peters for their dope costume design (i.e., choosing the track pants and sneaks that the twins wear).

The first pair of twins we meet are Dromio of Syracuse (played by Chris Banker) and Antipholus of Syracuse (played by Dyan Geringer).  Patrick O’Hara and Brendan Sheehan play the respective pair of Antipholi and Dromio(i?) of Ephesus. It was hard to choose a favorite performer/scene, as all four do a pretty commendable job of keeping you laughing for nearly two hours.  DJ Swizzul (Trent Marsh) on the turntables during the entire show provides the perfect accompaniment for these four.  Dylan Geringer (a CTC "regular") shines as the one female cast member, especially as the character of Hendelberg, a Jewish rapper/jeweler with a knack for hilariously awful “yo’ mama” joke telling.  She’s such a versatile performer and her comic timing is spot-on, as was consistent with all four actors. Patrick O’Hara plays a cross-dressing Luciana, and his interchanges with the super-funny Brendan Sheehan as a sassy Adriana, wearing a yellow sports bra and donning a red wig, are phenomenally witty, silly and fun.  More characters are introduced, including an Irish cop, a Rastafarian herbal doctor, a nerdy bike messenger, and a stripper named Desi, just to name a few.  Under Michael Gray’s direction, assisted by Tommy Fisher-Klein, the speed and seamlessmness with which the performers switch characters is nothing short of impressive.

Bomb-itty is totally irreverent and although maybe not appealing to your grandmum — unless she's a sassy, rappin’ grandma, a la The Wedding Singer — it would be entertaining to the teens in your life.  Or, looking for a fun date night? Then, get-thee-to-Bomb-itty-and-you-will-see-some-hilar-ity.  Just be sure to read that synopsis first…ya heard?!  Check it: Bomb-itty runs now through May 17 at the Black Box at OperaDelaware Studios.